What 18 years as a freelancer has taught me

By Judith Gaskell

3 October 2019

This month marks 18 years since I became an independent consultant; a sort of coming of age you could say. So to celebrate freelance maturity I thought I’d share 18 observations I’ve made during this time.

  1. The majority of business will to come from people you already know, or people who know them (but occasionally they will find you on Google).
  2. The most enthusiastic and urgent potential new client is likely to be the one that comes to nothing.
  3. Remember, your contacts are the tools of your trade so guard them carefully. I’ve been offered an hour’s fee for spending an hour giving away all my contacts (my refusal there turned into a long term client!) and asked for my full contacts list when a contract came to an end (I politely declined).
  4. It’s a tricky balancing act giving enough information to win the business and not so much they could do it without you!
  5. A client can decide to appoint you more than two years after the first meeting.
  6. The less work you have the fitter you are (time for daytime exercise classes!)
  7. If it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t (arranging to meet the guy whose ‘wife’ was starting a website selling ‘adult products’ in Starbucks?) .
  8. While you can’t afford daylong training courses in London you can get so much from the cpd available from CIPR.
  9. You can get so much support fromother pr people. The people I’ve met through the CIPR Connects in Cambridge have proved to be great sounding boards, inspirational and great fun to be around!
  10. You’ll no longer specialise. People often ask me what my specialist area is but after 18 years I’ve pretty much done it all!
  11. You’ll have your one ‘meeting outfit’ and spend the rest of the time in jeans or gym clothes.
  12. When you do spend time in an office you’ll realise how things have changed. When did everyone start sitting at their computers with headphones permanently on (causing some very one sided conversations on my part) or tappng away at laptops in meetings?
  13. You’ll find skills you didn’t know you had. When asked if I could find 60 social media influencers to come to an event I made sure I could (helped by a great session at the CIPR East Anglia Conference).
  14. On occasion you’ll bore those you live with stupid about the minutiae of your day because you’ve not spoken to anyone else!
  15. You’ll undersell yourself on occasion, but you’ll learn from that experience.
  16. You’ll wonder who the people are who get work from agencies who promise to link clients with freelancers (and you’ll have the ignominy of being rejected by an algorithm for one!)
  17. While you won’t get the stress that comes from working for others you will feel stressed when you’ve too much work (and don’t know whether to turn it away) or too little you worry about paying the bills.
  18. You’ll know it was the right move because you got to work with some great people on some great projects and were still there for all the milestones of your daughter growing up!
Judith Gaskell www.cambridgepr.biz